Barbados is set to save US$1.5 million in foreign exchange this year from not importing onions.
Board Member of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), Peter Chase told members of the media today that BADMC would not be importing onions any time soon, since local farmers have been able to produce a phenomenal onion crop of close to 300 000 pounds, that would last an estimated six months.
“It is a major crop and a major savings for Barbadians. The crop was fantastic. We still have farmers coming in and for the last three months we have not imported any onions,” he said.
Chase said farmers started reaping the five-month crop in April, a process, which he said, should be completed by July. Chase noted that currently, all onions being sold in supermarkets were locally grown.
“BADMC would have facilitated by not importing onions. We had planned for it. This programme, we sat and we had meetings and we knew that we were coming to market with a plan. Therefore, we held off on the purchasing of imported onions much to the screaming of the retailers. All of the onions that Barbadians have been consuming in the last two to three months are local onions, and there are no complaints,” he said.
He explained that the good onion crop could be attributed to the marketing and field officers at the BADMC working with the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), to ensure that the crop was planted at the right time using the best varieties.
“There are approximately 68 farmers in the programme. There is interest coming into the BADMC for imports out of Jamaica and I understand St Vincent too, but that is planning for the future. Next year we can look at the export of onions.
“We understand the varieties now. We have two varieties that are excellent. Before some of the manufacturers felt that our onions might have produced a little too much liquid, but we have that fixed now.
“Certainly, we have onions for the hotels who really love the huge ones, and we have the fist type onion for the table for the housewife. We have it right. We are just happy that we had such a fantastic crop. So in the future we can look at growing onion all year-round,” he said.
Chase said the Spring Hall land lease project, managed by BADMC, produced excellent quality onions in a timely manner.
He highlighted that BADMC was in need of a national dryer to dry the onions, which were now being dried with the heat from the sun.
“We are going to work with the private sector group. We are going to work with the BHTA [Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association], and the retailers in this country to understand their needs. Once we have their needs then we can set up planting schedules across this island to facilitate the growing and the reaping.
“It is hard to say without people sharing their inputs, sharing their data with us, what is needed. We need the help of the whole business community to work with us to be able to come to a point where we understand what to grow and when to grow it so that we would have a proper planting schedule across Barbados. We don’t want the gluts; we certainly want to continue to have affordable produce for Barbadians,” Chase said.